With Planning, Electric Vehicle Ownership Is Accessible To Apartment Dwellers

By · February 04, 2014

Multi-Unit Charging

Photo via eVgo.

If you live in a multi-unit dwelling—an apartment or condominium complex, that is—getting access to a charging station for your plug-in electric vehicle can be a little complicated. It's not as easy as simply running an extension cord out your window or installing a charging station in your favorite parking space. It can take weeks or months to work through the multiple steps to make charging available.

“There is some fundamental groundwork that you have to do if you want to get charging” in a multi-unit dwelling, Ed Kjaer, director of transportation electrification at Southern California Edison told PluginCars.com. “It is very much incumbent on the residents to get organized.” SoCal Edison prefers to deal with groups rather than individuals, said Kjaer. So it's advisable to get the property management company or home owners association involved early on.

But before the management company or HOA approaches the utility, Kjaer suggests first surveying the residents to see how much demand there is for charging points—then considering if there are suitable locations for the charging stations, with access to the 240V electricity. That could be an outside wall shared with an electrical room or a laundry room, for example.

Know Your Rights

Keep this in mind: Home owners associations and property managers can be one of the biggest barriers to getting charging installed. But the laws in a few states, including California and Hawaii, say that residents of multi-family dwellings have the right to install an EVSE so long as they pay for it and indemnify the landlord or HOA, as well as taking out a low-cost insurance policy against property damage, according to Paul Scott, a founding member of EV advocacy group Plug In America.

Looking online for guidelines to getting charging points installed is also a good idea. California accounts for one-third of all electric vehicles sold in the U.S. and the utilities in the state, including SoCal Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, have instructions online for charging station installation.

Most also have a wealth of additional information about rate plans, rebates, and even other charging station locations. The PEV Collaborative site www.pevcollaborative.org also has detailed guidelines and decision guides for multi-unit dwellings to consider when installing charging.

Complications

EV Connect, a Los Angeles-based EV charging software and solution provider, focuses mainly on enterprise-based charging solutions because charging station installation at multi-unit dwellings is so complicated, EV Connect CEO Jordan Ramer told PluginCars.com.

“There are a lot of different parties involved and that makes it a very complex sale and deployment process,” he said. For example, “on the sales side it is not very clear who is going to pay for it. That creates problems.”

That is especially true with condominiums, he said, because an owner may or may not own the parking space, and the Home Owners Association has to approve the station in any case. There is also the property management company to deal with. “There are all these different layers,” said Ramer.

With apartments, there is one landlord, which makes the payment situation easier. But deployment can still be tricky, depending on how the parking spaces are set up, said Ramer. “The landlord has to be willing to make that investment and be able to see a return,” he said.

Nonetheless, some property management companies are proactively installing charging. Sequoia Equities of Walnut Creek, Calif., for example, just announced it will install charging stations at 28 of its properties in northern and southern California.

The program is partly a result of requests by residents, but also a response to an anticipated growth in the number of plug-in electric vehicles because of the California mandate that 15.4 percent of all new vehicles sold the state by 2025 be plug-in pure electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell vehicles by 2025, Cynthia M. McSherry, senior vice president of Portfolio Management at Sequoia told PluginCars.

McSherry said that the only “the only real challenge thus far was to pinpoint the locations that could best utilize existing electrical infrastructure, so as to minimize installation costs.”

However, Terry O’Day, vice president in charge of California for eVgo, the company paying for the installation and charging stations at the Sequoia properties, said that installations at multi-unit dwellings “is a complicated business.”

Each site has its own issues, he told PluginCars.com, such as different wiring setups, some in the wall and some underground.

The various properties are also served by different utility companies, who are “important partners for us” because sometimes there is a separate meter for each charging point and sometime the property owner has to be reimbursed for common meter usage, said O’Day. The rates also vary among utilities.

As for the utilities, they work with all charging station equipment and service providers, said SoCal Edison’s Kjaer. “We are pretty agnostic,” he said.

New to EVs? Start here

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